Cheval Blanc Paris

8 Quai du Louvre

75001 Paris


Tel: +33 (0)1 40 28 00 00


The Food:

Partridge / Autumn Vegetables / Ballerina
For Consommé ‘Plume Sauvage’

Rabbit / Crayfish / Chanterelle
For Double Sauce ‘Lac des Merveilles’

Sole / Pomme de Mer / Caviar
For Bouillon ‘Ode A L’Iode’

Langoustine / Jerusalem Artichoke / Black Cardamom
For Sabayon ‘Astera’

Poultry / Artichoke / Pilaf
For Poulette “D’Y”

Red Mullet / Boulangère / Crocus
For Fumet de Roche ‘Bravade’

Emotional Memory
Apple / Quince / Vanilla / Pommeau

Cocoa Pod Flower
Pear / Chocolate / Tonka

The Wines:

2010 Dom Ruinart 98
2014 Domaine Dujac Morey-Saint-Denis   ?

Three-star Michelin restaurants are usually not my cup of tea. Let me get that out of the way. I often find the ambiance at these establishments far too formal and structured for my personal taste, while I tend to enjoy simpler, more ingredient-driven cooking most of the time. However, when I asked friends and colleagues whose opinions I respect where to eat in Paris, one name popped up on everyone’s list.

Partridge, Autumn Vegetables, Ballerina, For Consommé ‘Plume Sauvage’

Plénitude is located in the Cheval Blanc Hotel, one of the hottest spots in Paris. The hotel boasts a stunning collection of restaurants and a gorgeous bar, but Plénitude is the crown jewel. Chef Arnaud Donckele is among the brightest young stars in the world of French Haute cuisine. Donckele was introduced to the food at a young age. He started by working alongside his parents in their charcuterie business. Studies in cooking led to positions with several elite chefs, including Michel Guérard and Alain Ducasse. Donckele became chef at La Vague d'Or in the Cheval Blanc Hotel in St. Tropez at age 27. The coveted three Michelin stars followed a few years later.

Chef Arnaud Donckele and his team in action. Every party is brought into the kitchen at some point in the evening. 

The staff is immediately welcoming. First we are taken to the visit the extensive wine cellar. The elegant, well-lit dining room feels intimate and sophisticated. Tables hug large windows that look across the Seine. Another set of tables sits further back, slightly elevated, offering a feeling of airy spaciousness. My only real critique of the room is that the acoustics are so crisp that it is very easy to hear the conversations of nearby tables, even though tables are set far apart. Donckele has thought about every detail, from how the room is arranged to breezy, impeccably ironed uniforms for the staff that convey lightness and movement through space in a sort of Paris meets the Alps kind of look. Service is attentive but never intrusive.

Rabbit, Crayfish, Chanterelle, For Double Sauce ‘Lac des Merveilles’

Dinner starts with a fresh, briny oyster and a glass of 2010 Dom Ruinart. It’s a beautiful pairing. I have always loved the 2010 for the way it straddles the worlds of Champagne and still wine. It is absolutely glorious on this night. In fact, I could have had it for the entire meal. A deep, luscious morel broth and Brittany scallops are other highlights among the amuse-bouches.

Plénitude offers two tasting menus, both built around the concept that sauces are the central building block for each dish rather than accompaniments. Symphonie (€475 per person) is described as a six-course symphony of sauces in six acts, while Fugons Ensemble (€390 per person) is a four-course menu composed by the guest. For smaller groups of four and under, each person can have their own menu, which provides an opportunity to taste many dishes. Three wine pairing options are offered, ranging from €195 to €495 per person. Reservations are a must and are booked 5-6 months in advance.

Sole, Pomme de Mer, Caviar, For Bouillon ‘Ode A L’Iode’

The wine list is suitably impressive, as befits a restaurant of this level. There are plenty of options, naturally with a good bit of focus on wines from the LVMH collection of properties. Our server, who has been with Plénitude since opening, does a great job with wine service. That said, I am surprised there are no sommeliers on the floor. Perhaps we visited on an atypical night. In my view, a three-star Michelin restaurant must have sommeliers. Presumably one of the reasons why wines in elite restaurants like Plénitude are pricey is service. Fine, no problem. That’s part of the package. But that service, that attention to detail, it has to be there. This is the one part of the dinner that is a bit disappointing. 

Unfortunately, the 2014 Morey-Saint-Denis from Domaine Dujac is not at all expressive. It happens. I found the 2014 terrific a year ago, but on this night, it is in a rather grumpy mood. There is nothing obviously wrong with this bottle, but it’s just not great. This is one of the downsides of tasting wine critically for work. I find it hard to enjoy a wine if there is anything slightly not perfect about a bottle. Not an issue, though, as the focus is more on food than wine anyway.

Langoustine, Jerusalem Artichoke, Black Cardamom, For Sabayon ‘Astera’

Speaking of food, every dish is sublime. Here, I must apologize, as the photos can’t possibly do justice to elaborate presentations that include numerous components for each course. The food is highly complex in execution, while flavors and textures are deeply layered, yet there is no feeling of heaviness at all. I have described the dishes with quite a bit of detail but have not listed all the ingredients. Foodies will be delighted with the full descriptions of the sauces that the kitchen leaves with guests at the end of dinner.

The Partridge, served with autumn vegetables in a consommé flavored with partridge truffle essence, Cognac, fennel, juniper berry and shallot, is fabulous. I am not sure which part of this dish is the ‘main’ part, but it does not matter. The consommé is so deep and satisfying that I would be happy with it alone, but the whole course is brilliant. The Rabbit is brought out of the kitchen in a glass dome, shown off for maximum visual impact, and then presented in a full composition a few minutes later, with all of its components artfully arranged. The Double Sauce of tomato essence, crayfish broth, roasted head oil, rabbit brother and farmer’s lard is superb. My only quibble here is that the plating is so complex that the rabbit is only lukewarm by the time it arrives at the table.

Red Mullet, Boulangère, Crocus, For Fumet de Roche ‘Bravade’

Donckele’s Sole is sweet, salty and creamy all at once. The fish is perfectly cooked, a dollop of caviar is generous, and the accompanying bouillon with caramelized lemon balm branch, dry plankton powder, abalone juice, brown butter, Furio wine vinegar and Verbena pepper is delicious. It’s a stunning dish in every way. The Langoustine is another highlight. Here, the Sabayon ‘Astera,’ with its bold, luscious mix of citrus, helianthus essence, shallot, black cardamom and intense shellfish flavors, steals the show. 

At this point, we are escorted into the kitchen for a tour and a refreshing spoonful of sorbet at the chef’s table. Donckele is hard at work at the pass, finishing all the dishes with meticulous attention to detail, but he wants to meet all his guests. This interlude is another nice touch that brings guests closer to the restaurant and makes them feel part of the overall experience while also offering a change of scenery that is invigorating.

Dinner continues with a very tasty, moist chicken served with slivers of caramelized artichoke and rice pilaf on the side, finished with a gorgeous sauce of saffron chicken broth, Ygrec, lemongrass, orange zest, celery, rosemary, cream, tangerine olive oil, semi-salted butter and Timut pepper. It’s not your ordinary chicken, to say the least. Red mullet is one of my favorite fish. Here it is served with two sauces, a Provençal-inspired bouillabaisse of rockfish, pastis, Cognac, shallot, fennel, celery, crab broth, orange peel, saffron, potato, olive oil, sea urchin juice and Voatsiperifery pepper and sabayon of vegetables. It’s another dish full of bold, rustic flavors that are elevated to the sublime.

Emotional Memory: Apple, Quince, Vanilla, Pommeau

Desserts are a fitting conclusion to this dinner. The Emotional Memory is quince and apple dessert Donckele and Pastry Chef Maxime Frédéric inspired by nostalgic memories. An anise-flavored tuile with a dollop of rice-infused Chantilly cream seems to float over a sauce flavored with quince and apple essence, saffron infusion, lemon juice and grated fresh apple. 

Cocoa Pod Flower, Pear, Chocolate, Tonka

As delicious as it is visually stunning, the Cocoa Pod Flower is a tour-de-force, and I say that as someone who does not have a huge, sweet tooth. The contrast of flavors, textures and temperatures is sheer mastery. It is presented first as the Triple Sauce Belle Helène, a raw cocoa bean emulsion with Tonka chocolate sauce, candied pear, Polignac almond and pear sorbet served over a warm open flame. Both desserts are terrific but also a bit sweet for my personal taste.

Triple Sauce Belle Helene

Vanilla and orange blossom-infused crème anglaise is the last sauce of the evening. It is another fabulous creation. Ice cream flavored with Madagascar vanilla and kirsch is a veritable explosion of flavors. The last sweet bites are presented on a whimsical pop-up map of the main sights of Paris. It’s a fun touch that perfectly embodies the combination of seriousness and whimsical fantasy that lies at the essence of what Plénitude is all about.

The last sweet bites are presented on a whimsical pop-up map of the main sights of Paris.

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